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Introverts, Unite!

Josh recently forwarded me an article about introverts and extroverts and how they respond physically to the world.  At first, it was just a “hey, they described you!” sort of thing.  But after a day or so, I think he started to realize, “oh… if that describes you, then I now get why you hate X, Y, and Z.”

The HuffPo article does a good job explaining the difference between shyness and introversion — it comes down to how stimulated you get from social interactions.  Extroverts want a high level of stimulation; introverts need a low level.  It also points out how life outside your home is structured with extroverts in mind: “most of our societal constructs cater to the former — from open office spaces to loud bars to the structure of our educational system.”

The reason I love working from home is that I really don’t thrive in an office space, especially one where I’m going to have to keep interacting with people throughout the day.  If you put me in my house with a task, I will get it done efficiently.  If you put me in an office space with that same task, I will take twice as long to complete it.  I don’t like eating out in crowded restaurants.  I would much prefer to watch a movie on our tiny screen at home than in a crowded theater.  I’d love to go to ComicCon, but when I hear the number of attendees, it fills me with dread.  I always have to sit on an aisle.  I love being alone.

I need a lot of alone time.

I liked the article because it does a good job explaining how I could have no anxiety about being a lecturer at the university, addressing 400 students at once, or speaking at BlogHer, but it can take me two or three hours of mental prep time to get myself to go to a small party.

So… yes… so while it isn’t my first choice to go out to the movies, I go because it means a lot to Josh.  While I need lots of down time in order to function which cuts into Josh’s activity level, too.  But I love being married to an extrovert who leads me to stimulating situations that I would have otherwise never forced myself to experience.  And he probably gets some benefit from being married to an introvert.  (I think?)

Are you and your partner matched on the introversion/extraversion spectrum?  Or are you in an introvert/extrovert relationship?

P.S. While you’re contemplating this, you could also be prepping a post for tomorrow’s #MicroblogMonday.


1 Ellen K. { 11.23.14 at 9:00 am }

I’m more introverted than my husband is. I am good at mingling and meeting people and do well at parties, but I’m ready to go home before midnight, whereas my husband is often keen to go on to a bar or coffee shop after leaving the party.

A classic example of introverts and extroverts not understanding each other was last week at the gym. I thought we were working out together because we were in the same room. D. thought of “working out together” as actually being within a few feet of each other, taking turns with the weights. : )

2 Ellen K. { 11.23.14 at 9:06 am }

However, I LOVE to talk on the phone. I talk to my best friend for about 2 hours each week (she lives 6 hours away). I call my mom and dad every 2 or 3 days. I’m usually on the phone for at least 45 minutes each day. My husband, on the other hand, is so uncomfortable in long phone conversations. I am sure he was relieved when we moved in together.

3 Katie { 11.23.14 at 10:33 am }

This article describes me so well that I wonder if it isn’t just the “Barnum Effect”, such as horoscopes that are written to seem describe everyone in some way or another. Seriously, are there people who DON’T screen all their phone calls (even from friends) and try to sit on the isle seat, or actually prefer crowds and small-talk?!? I must find an extrovert and ask…

4 loribeth { 11.23.14 at 11:04 am }

I am an introvert… but from the sounds of it, I am more extroverted than you (I much prefer to see my movies in the theatre) & I am definitely much more extroverted/sociable than my dh. (Although, come to think of it, we do see most of our movies at Sunday afternoon matinees, when it’s generally not as crowded as, say, a Friday or Saturday night. 😉 ) I can deal with crowds (ever tried getting through Toronto Union Station during rush hour??) & social situations — but they are tiring. I need down time to recover afterwards.

The GO trains here introduced “Quiet Zones” a year or two ago… basically the top level of each train car during rush hours. If you’re sitting in that area, you’re asked to refrain from carrying on loud or lengthy conversations, mute your cellphone, etc. Of course, it is not enforced (except by the dirty looks of other passengers), but it did help a lot. I used to arrive at work feeling totally frazzled because some boisterous group was yakking & laughing it up or someone was talking loudly on their phone… at 6:45 in the morning!! It wasn’t much better to listen to the same thing at the end of a long, tiring day either.

Have you read “Quiet” by Susan Cain (whose TED Talk is mentioned in the article)? Really an excellent book on the subject. I never really thought about how the world is designed for & rewards extroverts until I read it.

5 Haisla { 11.23.14 at 1:49 pm }

Oh-me-gosh, I never quite realised how much of an introvert I am!! I read the whole linked article and just kept on nodding all the way through. I notice that even blogging and keeping up blogging relationships can feel draining to me if my energy levels are already low. M. is definitely the more extroverted of the us two, which is probably why we were attracted to each other. What a wonderfully liberating realisation, though – I’m not a social misfit, just an introvert living in an extroverted world. Thanks Mel, for writing this post. Introverts, Unite indeed!x

6 Turia { 11.23.14 at 2:37 pm }

I am a massive introvert. Q. is also an introvert, but I think I am worse. We regularly do that thing where he tries to let me go first into a restaurant/someone else’s house, and I want him to go first and we have an awkward standoff until one of us gives in.

I need a truly ridiculous amount of alone time. It’s why I still managed to read novels while writing a PhD dissertation. I had to have that time to recharge.

7 Jamie { 11.23.14 at 5:18 pm }

I am mostly an introvert, but can and enjoy being sociable at times. Many describe me as slow to warm up and will discount others who say I’m shy. They will say once you get to know Jamie, she is anything but quiet. It depends on the context and comfort level about the situation. It’s kind of like entering a pool. I slowly toe my way into the water, but once I’m in, I’m in the fun with everyone else. When I can go at my own pace, I am more open to stimulating experiences. However, I do like being able to get away for a break and enjoy working in quiet places. I also appreciate sharing a space with someone without having to directly interact to feel the comfort of their presence. My fiance is an introvert, as well. On the sliding scale, we may vary at times depending on the situation. I have also been reading the book, “Quiet.”

8 Working mom of 2 { 11.23.14 at 8:18 pm }

About 10 years ago I did the myer Briggs and came up as intj. Then I did it again a couple yrs later and came up as entj. Interestingly I’ve always considered myself an introvert but most of those scenarios in that article don’t apply to me. I think maybe I’m somewhere in the middle. I’m not necessarily uncomfortable in a crowd. Rather, a lot of the time I just prefer my own company.

9 a { 11.23.14 at 8:39 pm }

Are you referencing the comic that says “Introverts, Unite! Separately. In your own homes.” in your title? That’s my favorite!

Yes, I am totally an introvert. I work in an office, where all my stuff is done independently on my own schedule, and preferably in silence. My coworkers annoy me. I hate talking on the phone. I can do public speaking, but hate gatherings where I have to pretend to engage in small talk. No matter where I sit in a class or conference or meeting, I am the first one out of the room. I don’t mind movie theaters, though, because everyone is supposed to shut up and keep to themselves as soon as the lights go down. On the other hand, we do tend to watch movies at home more than in a theater.

My husband doesn’t understand that I must have 2 hours of peace and quiet at the end of the day before I can comfortably wind down and go to sleep.

My husband varies – he’s more extroverted than I am, but he’s become introverted over the last few years. Anxiety – it’s annoying.

10 earthandink { 11.23.14 at 9:12 pm }

I would say my partner and I both started out life as extreme extroverts, but are now I am an extreme introvert and she is more of a balance between the two.

I now get pretty extreme social anxiety. She doesn’t have that, and I suspect if I didn’t have that I’d be more in the middle. But now, it takes a great deal of inner self-talk to even go to the store. (I do it. It’s just hard.)

11 earthandink { 11.23.14 at 9:33 pm }

I don’t mean to be confusing the two, they’re obviously separate. Pretty much the entire article I was thinking, ah, that’s me.

12 Lori Lavender Luz { 11.23.14 at 9:47 pm }

You and I are very similar in our -versionness, and I believe our husbands are, too.

Like you, I need lots and lots of alone time and can speak publicly, but a gala or a cocktail party (for which I need less psych-up time than you) drains me.

Now to click over…

13 Lori Lavender Luz { 11.23.14 at 9:49 pm }

Oh, my, yes that’s me.

14 Northern Star { 11.24.14 at 12:10 am }

I recently did the Meyers Briggs personality test through a work training thing and learned that I am an extrovert… An extrovert accountant, which often leaves me feeling like a freak at work (most accountants are introverts). I figured out my husband is an introvert… And everything suddenly made so much sense! We are a well-matched duo on the intro/extrovert spectrum!

15 deathstar { 11.24.14 at 2:01 am }

We’re both extroverts, but I prefer a lot more alone time than my husband does. After expending a lot of energy hanging with my family for 4 days in Disneyland, I would prefer to just be alone for a day. I get quite irritable if I don’t get some down time. As much as I enjoy socializing (how I love a good party!), it does take me time to recuperate. Conversely, my husband is also quite good at socializing (but only with people he knows and he has to know who is going to be there and what the agenda is. I never care. I’d go to the opening of a champagne bottle if I’m invited.) I love having people over, but hubby never arranges any get togethers.

16 fifi { 11.24.14 at 6:17 am }

My husband and I are both introverts. We enjoy socializing with friends, but definitely need some downtime afterwards. It’s nice that we’re matched on this and can both spend time being quiet together.

He’s better at small talk than me, because he took time to master the skill and I just couldn’t be bothered. My trick with conversation is to find out what the other person is passionate about, and let them do most of the talking.

The introversion/extraversion split was more of a problem in my relationship with my mother. When I was growing up, I found her extraversion to be overwhelming at times, and she worried that my quietness and need to withdraw from the world was a sign of sometime seriously wrong. But we learned to accept each other after I grew up and moved out.

I’ve always liked Jonathan Rauch’s article about the subject:

17 andy { 11.24.14 at 8:28 am }

Hilary is definitely more introvert then I am. If she never had to leave the house again she would be happy. I’m in the middle. I relish alone time and work better alone, but I do like some company, but not big crowds.

18 Petunia { 11.24.14 at 10:35 am }

I’m definitely an introvert, as is my husband. It can be kind of hard, especially now that we have children. Neither one of us want our kids to be limited in their experiences because our introversion is holding them back, so we support each other when we have to do a task that challenges us. For example, on planes, we always sit in the back row, if possible. We know we have to fly to see family, which is important for us and our children, but being in the middle of all of those people makes both of us insane. So, we try to adjust our environment to make it tolerable. We also don’t have a home phone. We have old school flip phones that we use for important calls, but otherwise, we both avoid the phone if at all possible. I definitely related to this article.

19 SecondVoice { 11.24.14 at 12:52 pm }

I’m definitely an introvert and my husband is definitely an extrovert. We had to had a lot of conversations in early marriage about spontaneously inviting large groups over without warning, because he did not understand the problem.

20 Jessica { 11.24.14 at 1:49 pm }

My husband and I are the exact same – life of the party.
I don’t know how I’d live with someone entirely opposite of me.

21 Amel { 11.25.14 at 12:01 pm }

I’m an introvert and I married another introvert. We both love our quiet/alone moments and we both love cooping up inside the house. The problem with this setting (which is ideal for the both of us) is that when we go on a holiday to someplace new for example, we tend to try to push each other to ask questions or do stuff like that, because the both of us don’t like doing it LOL!!! And we both dislike asking for info on the phone, so we both tend to avoid something like this.

Another slight problem is that he feels more at ease being silent, whereas I feel that the burden of social contact lies more heavily on myself (or maybe I feel that way because I grew up in a totally different culture, a culture where extraversion is put on a pedestal, whereas he’s been living in a culture that is more introvert-friendly). As a matter of fact, I feel more at home here in Finland than in my home country (Indo) because it’s just more introvert-friendly (an American introvert who moved to Finland has also told me that she feels at home in Finland because of the same reason). I even believe that living here only grows my introversion to a certain degree, though through my line of work that requires me to meet people and serve people, I have managed to stretch myself towards the extravert side. That said, I need a lot of quiet/alone time in between work and out of work I love cooping up inside our home to avoid meeting/interacting with my customers (we live in a small village). I tried adding more working hours once and it only backfired, so I’ve told my boss openly that I want a long career with less working hours.

22 Amel { 11.25.14 at 12:17 pm }

Oh, don’t forget there are ambiverts, too. I only came across this term lately, though. They sit more or less exactly in the middle spectrum between extroverts and introverts.

23 Sharon { 11.26.14 at 11:56 am }

I’m late commenting here but wanted to chime in because my husband and I, like you and Josh, are in a “mixed” marriage. I am an extrovert, and he is an introvert. (Which is not to say he is shy: he just prefers alone time to time in groups.)

I actually find that this dynamic works well for me. Even apart from my marriage, a few of my more successful dating relationships were with men who were introverts. Maybe it’s the whole yin and yang thing?

24 Mali { 11.26.14 at 11:32 pm }

My husband’s an introvert – I’m much less so. But I ticked five of the ten items in the article – I hate talking on the phone (and rarely find anyone who feels the same), always want an aisle seat on a plane, get distracted easily but rarely get bored, deeper conversations make me feel as if I’m alive, and mostly (but not always) think before I speak.

I like meeting new people, and getting into conversations with them. But when we travel, whereas I’d be keen to chat to others at the dining table at the lodge (or join a group conversation on a ship or train) it is my husband’s worst nightmare (though to be fair, he has difficulty hearing which makes it harder for him). That said, I wouldn’t want to do it at every meal. Far from it!

This summed it up for me: “When the cup is empty though, we need some time to refuel.” That’s definitely me.

25 Amber { 12.05.14 at 2:16 pm }

Yes! I’ve always wondered how it’s possible for me to be perfectly fine giving a speech or teaching a class, but absolutely be so uncomfortable in a social setting.

26 Bronwyn { 12.08.14 at 3:12 am }

We’re matched as a couple. But then the kids come with their own personalities. That is a whole ‘nuther can of worms and I’m struggling with the issue at present.

27 Bronwyn { 12.08.14 at 3:14 am }


I was just thinking (by no small coincidence) that I’d really like to visit my family and sit around them in the living room with my laptop or a book and kind of tune in and out of the conversation as I pleased but not be interrupted by anybody. But in fact if I’m there people feel “forced” to “include me” which is really annoying. And then they say well if you don’t want to be “included” then go away. But I do want to be included, just not in a let’s-do-random-intermittent-small-talk-for-the-sake-of-small-talk kind of way.

Can you tell that just happened in the middle of the last comment? I have taken myself off into another room now.

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